Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Topic: Should Berkshire County DA David Capeless enforce State drug laws?

From The Berkshire Eagle (Saturday, April 9, 2005):
"DA, citizens confer -- Prosecution of youths is topic"
Please read the above article, then post your feedback here:

28 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hell YES!

Friday, April 29, 2005 3:57:00 AM  
Anonymous DEBORAH PIERCE said...

I have been reading the ongoing series of letters to the editor regarding the Great Barrington drug arrests and am struck by the hostility and anger.

Most of those who oppose an alternative sentence for the young people accused of selling marijuana have reduced the argument to a class war. Those individuals who would like District Attorney Capeless to pursue charges that require mandatory sentencing appear to be angry with the residents of Great Barrington. Angry because they live in a lovely town, angry because there is an assumption that everyone in Great Barrington is privileged, rich, and therefore deserves nothing more than the harshest of punishment. Apparently working hard, doing well and speaking up on issues that involve yourself, your friends or your family are values to be ridiculed.

Snide comments such as "sushi eating'' residents, or references to "who you are or how much money you have" don't present a coherent argument as to why mandatory sentencing is a sensible solution in these cases. Not one letter addresses the subject of why mandatory sentencing in this case is a productive, smart or reasonable solution.

I know one of the families involved and for all of those who are so convinced this is about "privileged" people, let me set the record straight: The parents work six days a week, have no savings to speak of, and have spent countless hours over the last six months raising awareness regarding the application of the school zone penalty. They hope to make a difference for these children and for all those who may find themselves in this situation in years to come.

For those serving mandatory sentences, I am dismayed that your rage at having received such punishment carries over into wishing the same fate befalls someone else. Wouldn't you have wanted someone to fight on your behalf? Why are you so angry that people are raising issues that address the very problem and worthlessness of why you are serving jail time? I think all of us agree the Great Barrington young people should be punished for breaking the law, however, the punishment should fit the crime.

Incarcerating young people for first and non-violent offenses goes against the recommendations of most experts in the fields of criminal justice, psychology and drug treatment. I choose to believe Mr. Capeless is more interested in innovative solutions that turn these young men and women into productive and good citizens. Pursuing felony charges with mandatory sentencing will do nothing but destroy their futures.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005 3:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Ann Higgins said...

Vincent Lee (letters, April 15) asks where the "concerned citizens of Great Barrington" were during past years when "dozens of people with Pittsfield cases have gone to jail for the mandatory two years." I would ask him why he thinks it is the job of Great Barrington residents to act as the social conscience of Pittsfield and its suburbs. After all, Pittsfield and its surrounding towns have a sizable middle-class population, any of whose members have been at liberty over those years to raise objections to the application of the school-zone law to the city's residents. The fact that they couldn't be bothered to do that should not bar Great Barrington residents from raising concerns about the application of the law in their own community.

However, the recent attempts to inject class warfare into this issue and the restriction of the petition to a minority of the Great Barrington defendants divert attention from the fundamental injustice of the school-zone law in Massachusetts. As some earlier letter-writers have pointed out, when this law was passed it was touted as a way to prevent drug dealers from preying on schoolchildren on their way to and from school. However, because a radius of 1,000 feet is a much larger area than most people realize, and because the law applies whether or not school is in session, the law has actually become a means by which prosecutors can guarantee jail sentences for offenses that would not otherwise carry any jail time at all.

Furthermore, and this is the greatest injustice of all, although several recent letter writers have argued that if those charged didn't want to "do the time" they shouldn't have committed the alleged offenses in a school zone, there is actually no way that anyone in Massachusetts can tell whether a particular area is in a school zone or not. In Connecticut, as anyone who drives over the state line will know, towns and cities clearly mark their school zones with signs. The fact that no such signs are to be found anywhere in Massachusetts risks the suggestion that the use of the law in this state is intended less to protect schoolchildren from drug dealers than to ensure incarceration even for those convicted of relatively minor drug offenses.

This is the real point at issue here and if it takes "the sushi eaters of Barrington" (as Mr. Lee calls them) to bring it to our attention, perhaps Mr. Lee should feel grateful to them instead of belittling them.

After all, if a change in the school- zone law should ever come about as a result of the Great Barrington petition, defendants in Pittsfield will reap the benefits no less than defendants in Great Barrington and the rest of the state.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005 4:16:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

May 12, 2005

Dear News Media, People, Politicians:

Re: "School Zone Charges Pressed", by Carrie Saldo (Berkshire Eagle: http://www.berkshireeagle.com/Stories/0,1413,101%257E7514%257E2865501,00.html , May 12, 2005): "Justice" in Berkshire County is a complete corruption of the spirit of the law! Berkshire County District Attorney David Capeless and Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., are nothing more than henchmen and career machine politicians who only care about their status and big state salaries, benefits and future pensions. I ask that these two public officials be impeached and their pensions rescinded for their unfair and immoral mistreatment of the seven 1st time drug seller offenders by their pushing for full prosecution of the offenders' school zone drug selling offenses and mandated 2-year prison term.

What messages are Capeless and Massimiano sending to the communities? COERCION! If you break the law, you will NOT be given an opportunity to explain yourself, your situation, your reasons why you committed your offense, your opportunity to ask for a lesser charge and/or punishment, your option to do community service, to not have a black mark on your record, to go to college, especially those who are only 18 years, to serve in the military, to serve in the Peace Corps, Vista, Americorps, and the like. NO, sir! Capeless and Massimiano will just lock you up, throw away your future, and probably scare the crap out of you in the process.

BUT, Capeless and Massimiano will still receive their plum salaries, benefits, pensions, control, influence, and the like. Capeless and Massimiano will be O.K. because they CYA'd themselves at the expense of 7 first time offenders who certainly don't deserve 2-years of jail. If I was a Berkshire state Senator or a 4th Berkshire District state Representative, I would push for the immediate impeachment of these two "law" enforcement henchmen!

Sincerely,

Jonathan

Friday, May 13, 2005 8:41:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

NOTE: THIS IS NOT MY LETTER; RATHER, IT IS A LETTER THAT WAS PUBLISHED IN THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE THAT I FULLY SUPPORT!

Article Published: Sunday, May 22, 2005

Sentencing law promotes injustice

To the Editor of THE EAGLE:-

There is nothing "even-handed" or "fair" about mandatory sentencing. Seeking mandatory two-year jail sentences and life-long criminal records for first-time offenders denies those prosecuted their right to judicial procedure.

Anyone punished so severely deserves to have their case considered individually. In his press release, District Attorney Capeless works at VILIFYING a group of young people who showed bad judgment. He wants us to believe that they should be grouped with "dealers" of heroin, LSD and cocaine. Yet, surely he is familiar with the White House study that asserts "In general, marijuana sellers continue to be young users who sell to a network of friends and associates. Marijuana sellers usually do not deal heroin or cocaine." Kids selling to each other should receive consequences that serve as a wake-up call and change their behavior. But UNFAIR sentencing has the potential for being hugely DESTRUCTIVE to the young people and families involved.

If the actions of the youth involved are as abhorrent as Mr. Capeless would have us believe, surely these kids will receive appropriate consequences as determined by a judge on a case-by-case basis. Furthermore, where is the statistical data supporting the effectiveness of the mandatory school zone sentencing law?

A Boston University Study on the school zone law states: "It appears from the study findings that the school zone statute (a) does not make the areas around schools particularly safe for children; (b) cannot reasonably be expected to do so; and (c) perhaps as a result, is not used by prosecutors in a way calculated to move dealing away from schools. Instead the law operates generally to raise the penalty level for drug dealing and does so in ways that are unpredictable for defendants." In other words, the law has proven INEFFECTIVE and is not being used as it was originally intended.

Some would say that because others have had to go to jail in similar circumstances, these kids should too. But past suffering does not mean we cannot choose to change our course. As we educate ourselves to the unfairness, ineffectiveness and destructiveness of mandatory sentencing, we must work for legislative changes. Several local and state politicians assert the need for such changes. But are we willing to sacrifice the kids caught in the middle while changes are being sought?

I applaud the DA's feelings of responsibility for protecting our young people. But I believe that this protection includes promoting positive changes through fair sentencing, in the hope that kids on the wrong path will be guided towards positive changes.

The course of mandatory sentencing, that Mr. Capeless is committed to, promotes INJUSTICE.

Fairness demands that consequences be in proportion to misdeeds and that sentencing be decided on a case-by-case basis. Mandatory sentencing is FLAWED and yet our current DA perseveres in applying it indiscriminately. Is this something our community should be willing to support?

CHRISTINE WARD

Great Barrington, May 13, 2005

Monday, May 23, 2005 8:16:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

NOTE: THIS IS NOT MY LETTER; RATHER, IT IS A LETTER THAT WAS PUBLISHED IN THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE THAT I FULLY SUPPORT!

Article Published: Saturday, June 11, 2005

To the Editor of THE EAGLE:-

Justice without mercy? The draconian mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines are throwbacks from another era. The legislature enacted these laws in a knee-jerk reaction to the horrors of the drug epidemic in the late '70s and early '80s. They are an anachronism, the product of an outdated way of thinking, a weapon in what Ronald Reagan so eloquently deemed "The War on Drugs." Now, 20 years later with prisons
bulging at the seams from non-violent drug offenders; the laws have proven to be ineffective, and unfair, as well as an undue burden on the taxpayer.

It's interesting that the even-minded, intelligent capable men and women of our city government could set civil standards in the drafting of an ordinance prohibiting the opening of an adult entertainment establishment, i.e. strip club, within 200 feet from a playground; yet a 17-year-old kid not even old enough to be a patron of such an establishment has to be sentenced to a mandatory two years for selling a marijuana joint within a thousand feet of the property of a school.

I'm currently serving 15 to 20 years in state prison for a non-violent drug offense. I grew up in Berkshire County, and at age 24, as a full-time college student, I was arrested and sent to prison. A large portion of my minimum mandatory sentence is the result of the school zone statute. In my case, the alleged illegal act took place 999.6 feet from the property line of the nearest school. That's just six inches inside the thousand feet that can trigger the ability of law enforcement to tack on a school zone charge, and thereby enhance any sentence with a mandatory two years.

These laws aren't being used as they were intended. Until the Legislature repeals them, they are on the books. The only caveat is the district attorney's authority to exercise discretion in applying and prosecuting them. It is a much the duty of the district attorney to zealously protect the community from the ills of criminality as it is his responsibility to uphold and preserved the citizen's rights. With authority comes responsibility. To sent young, impressionable, otherwise good kids to a prison cell in lieu of other alternatives when they pose no danger to the community is irresponsible.

JOSHUA G. STEGEMAN

Shirley, June 2, 2005

Monday, June 13, 2005 8:55:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

NOTE: THIS IS NOT MY LETTER; RATHER, IT IS A LETTER THAT WAS PUBLISHED IN THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE THAT I FULLY SUPPORT!

Article Published: Monday, June 27, 2005

Jail violent criminals, not drug experimenters

Letters

To the Editor of THE EAGLE:-

Due to limited time and money, it is impossible to prosecute and send every criminal offender to prison. It is the responsibility of our district attorney to use his discretion in choosing which crimes require jail time that will make our
community safer. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to make those choices wisely.

Is selling marijuana within 1,000 feet of a basement day care center closed for the summer more dangerous than selling crack cocaine, battering someone or driving while intoxicated for the second or third time? I often read about those offenses bringing suspended sentences.

There's just so much space in our jails. I'd rather see them filled with dangerous criminals than non-violent young people experimenting with drugs. Drug abuse is an important issue. However, prosecuting first offenders to the full extent of an unfair, ineffective law doesn't serve society well. Community service and drug education are more constructive for all concerned than mandatory two-year state prison sentences.

Which crimes should take up our DA's time and our taxpayers' money? If David Capeless cannot distinguish the serious difference between violence and experimenting with marijuana, then he needs to be replaced by someone who can.

ANDY MATLOW

Great Barrington, June 19, 2005

Monday, June 27, 2005 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

9/13/2005

Pot Found Growing In Great Barrington

Great Barrington Police have another major drug case on their hands. Chief William Walsh says an Air National Guard flyover last Friday looking for marijuana plants found two sets of them in the north end of town.

Walsh says no arrests have been made, and the plants were ready to be picked and processed...which could have netted the drug dealers 50-thousand dollars on the street.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005 8:58:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE

DA hurts office, cause

Letters

Thursday, October 06

To the Editor of THE EAGLE:-

After sitting through the trial of Kyle Sawin, I was stunned by how out of proportion the effort to convict him was in relation to his alleged offense. What I saw was a teenager with no prior criminal record, accused of selling a minuscule amount of marijuana, hardly a big-time drug dealer, repeat offender, or threat to the community.

Not one but two of Berkshire County's most experienced assistant district attorneys pressed the case against Kyle Sawin. The district attorney of the entire county spent hours sitting attentively in the courtroom. I heard multiple witnesses testify in direct contradiction to the undercover officer's story of what happened. The only evidence, after an eight-month investigation, was his word. There were no videos, no photos, no tape recordings. The notion that he was professional in his investigation was seriously undermined. The jury heard all of the testimony, unlike the casual observer, and unanimously rendered a not guilty verdict.

The dignity and credibility of the district attorney's office has been seriously eroded and undermined by this effort. Had the prosecution prevailed, would this harsh punishment have made our kids safer from drugs? Isn't that our bottom line? Aren't we doing this to protect our children?

But nationwide, experts draw the opposite conclusion from this rigid one-dimensional approach that looks only to punishment in all cases. They point out that this kind of rigid prosecution, which does not distinguish between marijuana and dangerous addictive drugs like heroin, methamphetamine and crack cocaine, can, in fact, make things worse. The fact that serious drug abuse in Berkshire County has not decreased and is far above the national average bears this out.

So, why do it? Why divide our community and pursue an ineffective, wasteful policy? For some, it may satisfy their personal need to punish harshly and to excessive lengths. But our community gains nothing through these extreme actions. The district attorney's current policy robs us of the middle ground — appropriate, reasonable punishment that fits the crime, and yields an outcome that is either too severe or too lenient.

PETER GREER

Great Barrington, Oct. 4, 2005

Thursday, October 06, 2005 4:20:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Capeless is wrong on several counts

Letters

Sunday, October 09, 2005

To the Editor of THE EAGLE:-

As an attorney, I am appalled by the action of Berkshire District Attorney Capeless in prosecuting the Taconic youths under Massachusetts' Draconian school-area drug law.

Mr. Capeless has asserted that it is his office's policy to prosecute these young people and put them in jail for two years, thereby effectively ruining their lives, as well as their parents' lives. This is a good reason to eject Mr. Capeless from his office, as policies that are wrong should not be followed but rather changed. He should be a standup politician and do the right thing — something we don't see many politicians doing these days.

Moreover, if Mr. Capeless can plea bargain more serious crimes, he should be ashamed to press forward with the teenage prosecutions as he is wont to do now — despite losing the first case, thank God. We plea bargain everything from traffic tickets to murder. Why not for these children?

Mr. Capeless' stand also shows me that he has little faith in the judges in our county to impose an appropriate sentence. He sets a poor example to the populace residing here.

It seems apparent that it is Mr. Capeless' pride that will not let him back down. He has taken a stand, and he's going to emulate George W. Bush, our appointed and worst-ever president. That is as much a shame for a public official at the local level as it is at the national level. Mr. Capeless should admit his mistake and correct it. The Sawin jury said as much.

No one has suggested that the young people being prosecuted should not be punished; however, the punishment should fit the crime — as well as the perpetrator, and here it doesn't do either. Like the Rockefeller drug laws in New York state, this law accomplishes nothing when it is applied without a sense of justice — something Mr. Capeless is missing.

He is also missing the intent of the law, which obviously was to stop sales of serious drugs to school children — and here there were no such sales, just entrapped youngsters. No one was harmed here by the children's actions — except themselves and their parents. These prosecutions are wasteful of our youths and taxpayer dollars.

ROBERT S. CAINE

South Egremont, Oct. 1, 2005

Friday, October 07, 2005 12:05:00 PM  
Blogger Grouchee said...

RE: the ongoing kerfuffle about the Mandatory sentencing law and Capless: The same broken educational system that produces street corner simpletons has produced the generation of ill-informed adults who favor a catch and release policy for drug dealers. To the anti-mandatory sentencing crowd I would suggest a refresher course in civics. Anyone who votes should know that District Attorney Capeless does not make law – he enforces the law. It is his sworn duty to do so, no matter how idiotic that law may be. He cannot cherry pick the ones he likes and practice selective justice in reaction to organized whining. Laws are made by the legislature; in this case one with too much time on its hands. The legislators should be held accountable through elections. (Interestingly, the 1989 Massachusetts' School Zone Anti-Drug law in question, signed by Gov. Dukakis, was passed by an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature, which I am willing to bet is the party affiliation of most of those who are railing against the law and Capeless.)

The trend toward selective justice and sentencing is bad policy. I think there should be equally serious penalties for selling illegal drugs anywhere, but that’s my opinion and it’s not the law. I will continue to vote for those legislators who reflect my views of what the law should be. For those who don’t like the law as it now stands, and who “feel” that drug dealing is not a public menace and merely a childish indiscretion that should be “punished” with community service, I suggest you do the same- it’s your right. You also must be willing to take the heat when the now civilized Taconic parking lot is reinfested with emboldened losers intimidating citizens and selling drugs.

And for the lady (deborah pierce) who is struck by the anger and hostility of those in favor of punishing criminals - I applaude her perceptiveness - your damn right we're angry - I don't want to see any more self-indulged punks sizing me up everytime I enter a public area to see a movie - and if it takes the wack on the head of a mandatory jail sentence to get them out of my face, so be it. Sorry if my desire for domestic tranquility offends you.

Friday, December 02, 2005 8:11:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Hopeful opposes Capeless in race
Local attorney will try to beat DA in primary

By Nicole Sequino, Berkshire Eagle Staff

The Berkshire Eagle

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

PITTSFIELD — Defense attorney Judith C. Knight emerged as a challenger to incumbent Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless yesterday, saying she opposes his "inflexible" prosecution of first-time drug offenders.

Knight's candidacy follows the recent conviction of Mitchell Lawrence, an 18-year-old Otis man and first-time offender who received two years in jail for selling 1.12 grams of marijuana near a Great Barrington preschool.

Lawrence's two-year sentence is the minimum mandatory incarceration for selling drugs in a drug-free school or park zone.

Knight called Lawrence's conviction the "tipping point" for her decision to take out nomination papers in her bid for Capeless' seat. Capeless and Knight, both Democrats, will likely face off in a primary election in September.

"I feel a call to action," said Knight, a member of the Hellman, Shearn & Knight firm in Great Barrington. "This young man needed early intervention and treatment, not two years in jail. I'm not running because of this issue alone, but it illustrates the high financial and human costs of the inflexible approach that comes from the district attorney's office."

In response, Capeless expressed surprise after learning what prompted Knight's challenge. "Well, that's got to be a first, for someone to decide to take out nomination papers because of a drug conviction," he said.

Capeless said he welcomes Knight's challenge and is proud of his record as the county's chief prosecutor since he was named interim district attorney in 2003 and won the seat in a November 2004 election. Previously, Capeless served as an assistant district attorney for 12 years.

"I offer unequaled qualifications of experienced prosecution," Capeless said. "I also question what the issues are going to be (in this race). Are we going to uphold the law for the public's safety, or be lenient toward drug dealers?"

A total of 19 people, including Lawrence, were arrested after an undercover investigation into drug sales at the former Taconic Lumber parking lot in Great Barrington during the summer of 2004.

The Concerned Citizens for Appropriate Justice, a local group based in South County, called on Capeless to drop the school-zone charges against seven of the defendants — including Lawrence and Knight's client, Kyle W. Sawin — who were accused of selling small amounts of marijuana near the schools.

Sawin, 18, of Otis, was acquitted of his charges after a second trial last September. In Sawin's first trial, the jury deadlocked and a mistrial was declared in July 2005.

A native of Stockbridge, Knight has served as an attorney for 20 years.

She spent five years working as an assistant district attorney for the Middlesex County District Attorney in Cambridge, first under Scott Harshbarger and then Tom Reilly, who is now the state attorney general.

In that time, Knight said, she convicted violent offenders and rapists and learned to be a tough prosecutor.

"A tough prosecutor is tough on tough crime and also has the ability to demonstrate compassion and insight when the case calls for it," she said.

Specifically, Knight expressed distaste for the school-zone law and other minimum mandatory sentences. "I'm against mandatory minimums," she said. "I think the judges give appropriate sentences, and they don't need to have their hands tied."

With this in mind, Knight said, she would advocate for changing the law if elected as the county's district attorney. However, she also said she would enforce the school-zone law according to her discretion.

"While the law's the law, I would enforce it when it's appropriate to do so and go back to its legislative intent," she added. "The law was created to address drug dealers who were dealing on school property and selling to school children. Unfortunately, it can be misapplied (as in the Lawrence case)."

In reply, Capeless said the district attorney's position is to enforce the laws, not revise them. "That's not for a district attorney to do," he said. "If that's what Ms. Knight is seeking to do, then she's misguided and she should probably be running for the state Legislature instead."

In October 2004, Knight also took political action when she volunteered to serve in Florida as a poll monitor for the People for the American Way Foundation, a nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006 5:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As yourself some of these questions:

Has the DA's office typically brought School Zone Drug Dealers to Trial in the past?
Answer- no, the dealers offer to cooperate and cut a deal.
Why not these dealers?
Because they have been emboldened and exploited by the so called concerned citizens, who just want to weaken the drug laws. We'll run ads, attack the DA and get you off...
Conclusion, the dealers should thank the CCAJ for landing them a two year stint.
Good work, once again to the moronic "stop the drug war" losers who have been at this for 30 years with no success.

Friday, March 31, 2006 6:15:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers:

The Political Machine is certainly in full gear for David Capeless. The two Mayors of Berkshire County and police officers back tough tactics in law enforcement; their message: Send those straying 18-year-olds to jail instead of to college, the military, or a volunteer service. That is the answer by the following fat old men in political power: Mayors Jim Ruberto & John Barrett III, Sheriff Carmen Massimiano, Police Officers, and the like, who support figuratively tell young adults with substance abuse conditions and criminal records that 2+2=5 and that their collective understanding of what life is like for those young adults at or around 18-years of age at their collective fat stage of life at or around 60-years of age should guide them into rewarding futures. Why? Below is an answer to why the political machine is feeding off of the poor and young people in Pittsfield, North Adams and the surrounding Berkshire County area.

I grew up in Pittsfield, lived temporarily in North Adams, and worked inside of various communities throughout Berkshire County. These are my observations of what it was like to be young in the Berkshires and the negativism put forth by fat old men and bitter old women with political power. Pittsfield's median age is 60-years-old. The Berkshires are populated by mostly elderly people. The focus of Capeless, et al, are to be tough on young people. This toughness is really just negativity and marginalization. Pittsfield's teen pregnancy rate is almost twice the percentage of the entire statewide teen pregnancy rate. Why do you think this is so? The answer is that Pittsfield's community leaders want teenagers to have unprotected sex and have babies because it brings in funding by the state and federal government via welfare programs, public housing subsidies, child support and probate mandates that keep these young parents within the city and county limits, and ultimately it all directly leads to higher crime due to a lack of education and a family economy without self sufficiency. Let us face it, Pittsfield and Berkshire County's biggest resource are its people, and if there is a way to exploit people it is when they are young, uneducated, insecure and facing social problems. Due to Pittsfield's mostly elderly population, it is acceptable for fat old men to use tough tactics against crime because the young people can be bullied, marginalized and treated negatively for the long-term profit of the community's political machine at the tragic expense of continuing the cycles of abuse, poverty and violence. In short, get 'em while they are young and vulnerable through the false pretenses of tough tactics and negativity that really mean exploitation and marginalization via bullying by the political machine.

I still cannot get over how negatively Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. used to talk to me when I lived in the Pittsfield area, especially when I would openly observe, experience and comment on area machine politics. I spoke to a handful of people who worked at the County Jail for Sheriff Massimiano and they told me that he covered up assaults, made workers he did not favor work the late night/early morning shifts, and led a rather questionable personal lifestyle as it related to deviant homosexual personal activities. No one whom I talked to had anything nice to say about him. The messages I received about Massimiano is that he is a bully, people fear him and don't even try to be his friend, that they try their hardest to stay on his good side, they try not to have their name(s) cross his desk, that he is some sort of deviant homosexual. People warned me that if I participated in local or state politics that he would bully me. Then, lo and behold, when I wanted to run for State Senator in early-2004, Massimiano spoke to me with the most negative tone of voice and would not even sign my nomination papers. Of course, Massimiano is one of those people who Pittsfield's political machine revolves around. He is nice to no one of common citizenship, but does a lot of the dirty work for the fat old men and bitter old women of political power.

What does this all mean? The meaning of tough tactics by the political machine David Capeless incestuously married himself into is that they are the real problem. It is the political machine that profits off of the marginalization of the young people they bully and otherwise persecute with negativity. Without high rates of teen pregnancies in Pittsfield and its correlation with substance abuse and criminal activities, Pittsfield would lose millions of dollars of funding for its network of social service agencies, public schools, County Jail, subsidized public housing, and the like, due to the state administered formulaic aid funding programs. Young people without a record of teen or young adult unwanted pregnancies and criminal violations would be free to leave the area and thereby stand up to the negativity by these tough tacticians/machine politicians. The cycles of violence, poverty and abuse would abate, and the political machine would lose its funding, power and domination over the people of Pittsfield and Berkshire County.

Please oppose the political machine by voting out Capeless!

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle


DA charges into race

Backed by Berkshire mayors, Capeless touts tough tactics

By Jack Dew, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Berkshire Eagle

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

PITTSFIELD — As he kicked off his campaign for re-election yesterday, Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless took aim at his harshest critics, offering a frank defense of his prosecution of drug crimes.



Capeless will face challenger Judith C. Knight in a Democratic primary on Sept. 19. With no Republican candidate yet in the race, the winner of the primary will almost certainly win the four-year district attorney's term on Nov. 7.



Knight's candidacy grew from the controversial prosecution of suspects arrested in the Taconic parking lot drug investigation in Great Barrington. Nineteen people were charged, many of them teenagers accused of selling marijuana. Capeless has pursued charges of dealing drugs in a school zone against many of these offenders, a crime that carries a mandatory two-year jail sentence.



Capeless' determination to seek the two-year penalty led a group of citizens to form the Concerned Citizens for Appropriate Justice, which has repeatedly attacked Capeless for his stance.



Mayors on hand



Addressing a breakfast gathering of more than 120 people — including North Adams Mayor John Barrett III, Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto and the police chiefs of a half-dozen Berkshire communities — Capeless responded to the criticism and said he will always seek to punish drug dealers.



"I have a very clear message ... to anyone here in Berkshire County or anyone who would think about coming to set up shop here: If you make the decision to sell drugs, we will catch you and we will prosecute you," Capeless said. "If you then make the decision to cooperate with us in our investigations, you will have my discretion and you will receive fairness. But if you do not, if you go to trial, you will face the full force of our laws."



He said his critics use the term "nonviolent offender" "indiscriminately," lumping drug dealers and drug users together. Capeless said his office targets dealers with prosecution and users with counseling and treatment.



'Support rehabilitation'



"I support rehabilitation and counseling for those who are ravaged by the problem of drug abuse that affects our society. But I have no sympathy ... (for) the people who will take advantage of drug abuse, who will try to profit from that misery," Capeless said.



In an interview following the campaign kickoff, Capeless said it was his "expectation and hope" that the people arrested in the Taconic parking lot investigation would cooperate with authorities and provide the names of their suppliers. When they did not, he said, his office moved to prosecute them as it would any other drug dealers.



"A great distinction is drawn between those who aid us in our investigations. They admit what they are doing, they tell us who they are getting (drugs) from so we can go further up the ladder," he said. "And we deal with those people in a whole different fashion than those who basically thumb their nose at the system."



Knight, a Great Barrington attorney who is challenging Capeless, successfully defended one of the Taconic suspects, winning an acquittal for Kyle Sawin last year.



She said in a telephone interview yesterday that she would take a "reasoned approach" to drug prosecutions, seeking to punish the hardcore dealers and to find a better alternative for minor, first-time offenders.



She also challenged the assertion that those who cooperate are rewarded with leniency. "Apparently they pick and choose who they will allow to cooperate and who they won't," she said. "I know that not each and every one in that parking lot had an opportunity to cooperate."



Knight said the drug cases are "a lightning rod for people, but it is not what the race is about. As the campaign unfolds, we will have plenty of opportunity to educate the voters on the differences between my policies and District Attorney Capeless' policies."



Capeless, a career prosecutor with more than 24 years of experience, was appointed district attorney by Gov. Mitt Romney after his predecessor, Gerard D. Downing, died in December 2003. He won a special election to serve the remaining two years of Downing's term in 2004. He is now seeking election to his first full term in the office.



Capeless' speech was preceded by hearty endorsements from Mayors Barrett and Ruberto, who said Capeless' leadership in the district attorney's office has been a boon to their cities and to the county.



Capeless touted his office's successful prosecution of David Baxter, whom authorities have said was once the largest drug dealer in Berkshire County. Baxter was convicted in 2004 for two shootings in Pittsfield, one on North Street and the other a drive-by shooting on Wahconah Street. Baxter later pleaded guilty to several drug-related offenses and is now serving a 35- to 45-year sentence in state prison.



Capeless said his office is poised to lead an anti-gang and anti-gun initiative with money that has been set aside in a state supplemental budget. The initiative, he said, will seek to prevent violent gangs from taking hold in Berkshire County and will involve his office, the sheriff's department and every police department in the county.



Gang activity



"The people who have the guns and are willing to use them are drug dealers," Capeless said in an interview. "Unfortunately, that is where most of the extreme violence has come from. We have been concerned for a number of years about attempts to set up shop by various gangs in Berkshire County."



While authorities have been successful in identifying these threats and arresting them, Capeless said, it may only be a matter of time before organized street gangs take root.

"Right now, we are starting to see them make some inroads and get themselves settled here. It is of grave concern that we nip this in the bud," Capeless said.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006 5:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

GO CAPELESS!The good, law-abiding people of Berkshire County are behind you! We want safety. We don't want some drug-dealer defender looking out for our side. I predict you will get 90% of the vote, the rest will be from drug pushers and convicts.

Friday, April 28, 2006 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger Timothy Kushi said...

OF COURSE HE SHOULD BE ENFORCING THE LAW, NO MATTER WHAT THE LAW MAY BE! LAWS ARE, YOU KNOW, LAWS! AND IF YOU ASK ME, THE MANDATORY MINIMUM SHOULD BE RAISED TO 10YRS AND THE AMOUNT OF POT SOLD NECESSARY TO ALLOW PROSECUTION SHOULD BE LOWERED TO .001 GRAMS!

....

Alright, I've calmed down. I apologize for the above portion totally in capital letters, but I just can't help myself from expressing to the best of my ability in any medium I am communicating in my ABSOLUTE lack of ANY MANNER WHATSOEVER of human compassion for people who break laws, regardless the severity of the offense.

As a patriotic, rule-oriented, law-abiding, and emotion-charged reactionary citizen of the U.S.of A. under ONE GOD and a resident of the community this issue is unfolding in, I am enraged that the question can even seriously be asked as to whether or not DEMOCRATICALLY elected District Attorney should be enforce LAWS. I mean, it's not exactly a novel idea that the D.A.'s role is to mechanically, ruthlessly, and without any employment of personal discretion hunt down every single law-breaker (ESP. THESE WILDLY DANGEROUS, VIOLENT, AND SCUMMY POT DEALERS) and pursue PUNITIVE JUSTICE to the fullest and harshest extent permitted by the written legislation--legislation, any kind of it, obviously being the only means by which human beings can understand what justice is, esp. when an outraged majority of citizens fueled by fear, anger, or hatred unite in their common intolerance and animalistic rage with thoughtless devotion to some tradition (be it religious, cultural, or political) and FUEL THE CAUSE OF JUSTICE by working to pass new laws that create the JUSTICE that didn't exist before but does thereafter.

It was obviously just such a righteous and principled mass that, while for a period marijuana was legal, at some point recognized for one simplistic reason or another that a NEW JUSTICE had to be created to, you know, DEFEND TRADITION, and make it RIGHT that an individual's consumption--AND ESP. TRADE--of this naturally occuring plant, cannabis, a GROSS, OBSCENE, AND COMPLETE VIOLATION OF EVERY SINGLE THING [a certain portion of the Ameican, and esp. Berkshire in this case, contingent of] HUMANITY [decided at some point in the past and during completely different historical circumstances (though I bet in this case caused by the global pandemic of death, murder, and savagery pot smoking was leading the world to then)] STANDS FOR!

And that's that! You know how it goes: "Do the crime, do the time..." As well as suffer every other consequence in life your criminal record you were serving to "correct" causes for you, like never getting a good job and being forced to get DEEPER involved in drug dealing as a result, then probably being sentenced to death once the NEW JUSTICE I know is going to be created will call for!

JUSTICE! AMERICA! ANHEDONIA! DAMN RIGHT I'M PROUD OF D.A. CAPELESS!

... oh yeah, AND ONE NATION UNDER A SINGLE GOD THAT'S FOR OUR COUNTRY ONLY, TOO!

Sunday, June 25, 2006 7:33:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Travesty of justice exposed

Letters

Sunday, July 23, 2006

To the Editor of THE EAGLE:-

The Berkshire Eagle has distinguished itself in its ongoing coverage of the Bernard Baran travesty. The political courage and journalistic integrity evidenced by your management and staff is truly exceptional, particularly in this era of politically correct journalism. You deserve the praise of your readers and the admiration of your competitors.

A recent article ("Looking ahead to new freedom," July 1) describes the manifest injustice suffered by Baran for 21 years. His humility and absence of rancor tell us much about this man's essential character.

I am privileged to know a number of people who were instrumental in achieving this unconscionably delayed outcome. In many respects, the facts of this case are similar — if not identical — to those of five other cases on which I am currently working as a forensic consultant and expert witness (one in Florida, two in Pennsylvania, one in New York, and one in New Jersey), so I beg to differ with Harvey Silverglate's characterization of this issue as a phenomenon of the '80s.

These cases are, in fact, representative of what continues to occur when entrusted to a dysfunctional, politicized system that has no compunctions about destroying the lives of innocent individuals, their families, and even the children who were allegedly molested. Prosecutor Capeless is just one of many such individuals who need to be exposed and voted out of office if we are to have any hope of restoring some semblance of integrity and respectability to what we describe as "the justice system."

I offer my heartfelt congratulations to Baran's loyal and committed supporters and my admiration to The Berkshire Eagle.

HOWARD FISHMAN

Philadelphia, Pa., July 12, 2006

Howard Fishman is a trial consultant in the areas of child abuse and custody who has qualified as an expert witness in twelve states and Canada. He has served as director of continuing medical education in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and at The Menninger Clinic.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006 12:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Robin Litchfield said...

Capeless is nothing more than a politically self serving person who could careless about Berkshire County.
He is all about the win and not justice.

Robin Litchfield
Tragedies of Justice
www.paullitchfield.com
Murder ignored in order to maintain a wrongful conviction

Monday, August 28, 2006 3:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

capeless is a republican @ heart(less) he doesn't live in his beloved pittsfield, he sends his kids to private school- not public and he acts and talks like a bush wannbe,. Same one line rehotic - no fact based evidence. Drug abuse is higher than ever in berk county and OD deaths are at a record #. He is closing lines of commun ication from the at risk population thru his overzealous and inneffective approach

Wednesday, September 06, 2006 6:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's interesting the number of people related to convicted child molesters on this site.

Monday, September 11, 2006 2:13:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Monday, September 18, 2006 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Sunday, September 17, 2006

To the Editor of THE (Berkshire) EAGLE:

District Attorney Capeless' prioritizing of crime is terribly askew. His relentless pursuit of small-time drug offenders through Superior Court leaves him with fewer resources for prosecuting violent cases.

Mr. Capeless jails a first-time, non-violent teen drug offender for two years for a $20 marijuana sale. That two-year jail sentence will ultimately cost taxpayers nearly $100,000. Meanwhile, it's been my observation that crimes like assault and battery and DUI frequently result in probation, even when they're not a first offense. Statistics show a soaring Berkshire County crime rate under his watch, particularly in Pittsfield. For me, this all serves to disprove Mr. Capeless' frequent claim that his policies are "fair and effective."

By contrast, Judith Knight has 19 years of experience as a trial attorney, five of those as a professional prosecutor in Middlesex County under Scott Harshbarger and Tom Reilly. She had the respect of the late Gerard Downing, who asked her to work for him in the DA's office. She was born and raised in Berkshire County. Ms. Knight is active in the community, she believes in crime prevention, restorative justice and fiscal responsibility. I believe Judith Knight will bring much-needed balance to the office of district attorney because she has experience on both sides, as prosecutor and as defense attorney.

Judith Knight has a concrete plan to make Berkshire County safer and to bring down the soaring crime rate. I believe her when she says that she will make prosecution of violent crimes her top priority.

On Sept. 19, the voters of Berkshire County have a chance to elect a true professional who will actually be fair and effective, not just claim it. Please vote for Judith Knight.

MADONNA MEAGHER

Great Barrington

Sept. 10, 2006

Monday, September 18, 2006 11:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its funny...When it was a young African American young man being sentenced to a mandatory minimum you hear nothing but as soon as it's young white American everyone is sssssoooooooo angry. Please, give me a break. African American men are always being racially profiled and no one says a word! I don't agree with mandatory minimums but I'm glad at lease it woke people up because this has been happening to the African American community for a long time now.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006 10:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

its not funny its sad- the african american community had a opportunity to join knight to fight to change the mandatory laws- there were several meetings - and sadly they remained silent-Mandatory minimums are wrong-white black green or blue. Someone should file a freedom of info request to see the racial disparity going on in Pitts..... There is nothing "even " about how this dA uses mandatory minimums to fill our jails/...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006 10:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

African Americans are the VICTIMS of these drug dealers. Wake up! We want drug dealers out of our neighborhoods and this DA is doing his part. Ask yourself what you are doing for the AA community that even comes close.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007 4:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This A-hole is just like any other prosecuter. they all want to be in control of others. It makes him feel like a big man throwing people in jail for stupid laws. mandatory minimums are a big waste of millions of dollars. Circumstances are more important that mandatory minimums

Sunday, January 25, 2009 3:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Capeless is a hapless jerk. Isn't MA the state of the Union that had its senior law enforcement officials enforcing WITCHHUNTS?

What the heck do WASPY uptight people know about anything?

I laugh at conservatives. And I will not smoke Maryjane legal or illegal because I don't like it. I am not afraid of a leaf, but I am of white male conservatives. These men don't know their asses from their elbows.

Thursday, May 21, 2009 9:32:00 PM  
Anonymous drug rehab los angeles said...

An overwhelming number of teens experience their first use with drugs and alcohol during spring break. Asher founded Clean Break, as a community event that would provide a safe choice for high school and college students to enjoy their break in a sober environment. The first Clean Break 2009, was held in Nashville, Tenn., and featured music artists with a heart for student issues, and free pizza, sodas and ice cream for 200 teens from 78 different high schools. Clean Break 2010 built upon the success with 450 teens attending.

Thursday, March 17, 2011 10:25:00 AM  

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